I’m a big fan of tradition and ritual, but only when it makes sense for the couple. There are many traditions that have faded away with time, and a few that perhaps should! After all, we no longer pay the groom’s family to take the woman, offering something like a cow or pile cloth, at least in this part of the world. On a lighter note, most couples do not leave for their honeymoon immediately from their reception, with shoes tied to the bumper, off to Niagara Falls, but you could…in fact, that would be very cool.
Here are a few customs that are still popular, that I think could easily be skipped. Could be skipped not should be skipped.
1. The bride’s father ‘gives her away.
Of course if you have a father and he’s an important part of your life – you may certainly want him to escort you down the aisle! It can be beautiful, emotional and something both father and daughter have dreamed of all their lives. However, calling it ‘giving away’ feels quite out dated; if you think of it as accompanying or escorting you down the aisle, and supporting you, it might be a better fit. As always, words do matter. It shapes how we think about things.
If you don’t have a loving father or father-figure in your life, consider having your mother escort you. And if you close with both parents, have the both escort you. Women: you do NOT need a man to walk you down the aisle, but you may want an arm to lean on. For some couples, especially older ones – how about entering together? And many brides do walk in by themselves, and that is completely fine.
2, The Bride’s family pays for the wedding
If you have ever wondered how this tradition started – you won’t like the answer. It’s a hold-over from the days of the dowry, as I alluded to already. When women weren’t allowed to live on their own, work outside the home, or own property, an unmarried daughter was considered a burden, especially for families living at or near the subsistence level. To remove this burden, the family would pay a man to marry their daughter. The payment helped cover the expenses of setting up the new home and she was meant to help the man become more productive.
Today many couples pay for their own weddings, or they get help from whatever family is able, on either side or both.
3. The ‘plus one’.
Single people may be quite comfortable without a date. It’s not always necessary to have a ‘plus one,’ nor is it necessary to extend that in the invitation. Are single people less important than couples? No one should feel they must find someone to go with them to a wedding. A plus-one is relevant, however, for a short or long term significant others. But please – no pressure.
4. The groom shouldn’t see the bride before the ceremony.
The ‘first look’ photo has gained in popularity – and for good reason. It helps calm the nerves, and cuts down on all that time between the ceremony and reception, when the couple gets to greet their guests. The first look photo shoot can be fun, too!
If you do choose not to see each before the ceremony, and that is a great choice, just remember that your photographer may sweep you away for photos and your guests will be left waiting for your arrival. But they will probably be having a pretty good time without you, so don’t worry about it too much!
5. Bride’s side/Groom’s side seating.
There is a popular saying for those popular, cute wedding signs, that says: Pick a seat, not a side. This is especially important when one family has a greater number of people attending that the other. You’re all family now – so get together and fill up those seats. And while we’re talking about seats – don’t leave that second row open. The first row is for immediate family (sometimes two rows) but to other guests – you can start filling in the seating from behind the immediate family! This isn’t grade school so don’t be afraid to be in front. You are not going to get called upon. Please sit up close and show the love.
6. Equal number of bridesmaids and groomsmen.
This is totally unnecessary. Have the people you love stand with you regardless of their numbers or gender. The processional and recessional can easily be worked out. Women – you don’t need to have only women stand with you; men – the same for you! Same-sex couples have shown the way on this one.
Most people do not see any real value of a tiny little gift. They are sometimes even left behind. You are buying them a meal, drinks, cake and a party. Why do you have to also give them a trinket? However, guests are used to traditions. If you don’t want to give a tiny gift, but still want to fulfill this custom, consider donating to a charity in your guests’ honor. (I devoted an entire column to this subject). Put a note or symbol of the cause you support, in the place where the traditional favor would go.
My personal favorite alternative to the favor dilemma is the candy bar – where guests get to fill up a bag from a large array of candy on a table to take home. For me, it’s going to be a lot of licorice. I’m told this is no longer trendy, but hey, I love it!
8. Receiving line.
Especially for an outdoor ceremony, a receiving line slows everything down. If guests have been sitting in the sun, let them go and get a drink! Or they may even be chilly and need to warm up. If you do forgo the receiving line – just be sure to visit every single person at the reception.
Having said all this, if you want to keep these traditions, of course you should. My intent here isn’t to tell you what to do or not to do, but merely relieve you of any guilt you may have in forgoing some of these wedding protocols.
Thank you Lisa Rhinehart for the gorgeous photos!